Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Clovis B. Nelson | STEM initiative a step in the right direction

Published:Thursday | March 5, 2020 | 12:14 AMDr Clovis B. Nelson/Guest Columnist

The recent announcement by prime minister Andrew Holness, regarding the new STEM schools to be built in Jamaica, was welcome news to those of us who understand the futuristic magnitude of such an endeavour as far as Jamaica’s educational and economic development is concerned. It is a most welcome and necessary step in the right direction. It is certainly a move that will positively demark another significant policy initiative for him and could very well be his most fundamental flagship policy – a move that will benefit Jamaica significantly in the 21st century and beyond.

Upon hearing the announcement, I thought of the importance of keeping the fundamentals for our children’s education relevant and current, and the need to ensure that the bedrock of their basic academic necessities is anchored on a foundation of contextual futurism in the ensuing technological and scientific revolution. However we do it, whether by a new educational policy programme and/or an amendment of the current educational policy laws, the real debate going forward must be hinged on the overall shaping of our STEM curriculum in the context of the maintenance and preservation of a back-to-basics concept, through the ‘three Rs’– the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic. As I know it, (STEM) is a globally embraced popular, contemporary teaching, learning, technological and economic development portal through which students are educated in four specifics – primary disciplines in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is safe to say that (STEM) is an educational pathway that focuses on a specific disciplinary approach to human development that will bring global commonality of economic worth, relevance especially for developing nations in a technologically revolutionary manner accordingly.

Does STEM foster creativity and ingenuity?

While I have always been cognisant of the fact that in the contemporary-futuristic world, the technologically driven nations will continue to command the substance of trade and commerce, Jamaica’s mindset has to shift to more a STEM-driven concept in science, technology, engineering and math going forward. However, we must also be cognisant of the fact that while STEM is packaged as an interdisciplinary and applied approach to the future of education, a closer examination of its curricular structure seems to reveal that there may be caveats in its projected frame as far as the inclusion of key disciplines – the arts in education is concerned. Too often, for reasons of ignorance or ill-focused economic benefit thinking, the basic building blocks that are responsible for the fostering and development of ingenuity and creativity are excluded from the curriculum. It is no secret that ingenuity and creativity are the primary mediums through which students build essential skills, such as critical thinking, imaginative explorations, interpretative indulgence, problem-solving, cross-cultural understandings – social initiatives, and strengthening and expressing multiple and emotional intelligence. If STEM is not inclusive of the above-mentioned, then students will be devoid of creative thinking skills that are developed and sustained through the arts in education.

Embrace and apply the research

Educational research continues to narrate on the unquestionable relevance of the arts in education, yet its full integration as portals for and through which learning happens painlessly continue to be ignored and/or overlooked. I will elaborate by saying that the arts and sciences are known to collaborate symbiotically from antiquity. However, not everyone knows that the creative thinking that is required by scientific and mathematical processes is derived from the basic ingredients that are only found in the DNA of the visual arts – the source from which their preliminary frame derived. However, the common ground that science and mathematics enjoy today is not usually attributed to the fundamental premise of the visual arts despite the obvious evidence that dates as far back as the dawn of time.

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